By BLESSINGA MASHAYA

THE Zimbabwean government will take stern action against individuals and businesses caught manipulating foreign currency exchange rates, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has warned.

Addressing Zanu PF’s central committee in Harare yesterday, Mnangagwa also said authorities were putting a number of measures in place to deal with ever rising prices of basic goods in the country.

This comes amid a recent worrying spike in prices across the board, amid the continuing fall of the Zimbabwe dollar against major currencies.

It also comes as many experts are increasingly calling for the end of the general use of the United States dollar as a possible way to stabilise prices and spur economic development in the country.

“Government is addressing the recent runaway exchange rate and spikes in prices of basic goods and services resulting from imported inflation and criminal activities by persons and entities we identified and we are going to punish them.

“As party leaders, let us continue to be disciplined and upright in all our business dealings.

“I equally call upon our business people to desist from profiteering tendencies as this goes against the mantra, ‘Nyika inovakwa nekutongwa nevene vayo/Ilizwe liyakwa, libuswe ngabanikazi balo’.

“Let us all be responsible citizens who are averse to profiteering and the suffering of our people,” the seemingly irate Mnangagwa said.

“Equal attention must be placed on increasing the GDP (gross domestic product) of our respective provinces through enhanced production and productivity, as well as job and wealth creation,” he added.

Mnangagwa also challenged his party’s senior officials to work tirelessly to foster the country’s economic revival.

“The central committee has a duty to focus the party membership towards the realisation of our vision of a prosperous and empowered upper middle income society by 2030.

“We must keep our people informed and mobilised, focused and working harder towards improved production and productivity across all sectors of the economy, at every level.

“The development of our communities and our nation as a whole must continue full throttle regardless of the election season.

“The building of our country, brick by brick, stone upon stone, must never be put on pause,” Mnangagwa also said.

Speaking on Thursday night on popular 3Ktv programme, Vantage, economist Eddie Cross suggested that authorities would soon end the local use of the United States dollar as they seek to improve the lives of ordinary people.

“First priority is to stabilise the local currency. This runaway devaluation of the PMR (foreign currency parallel market rate) has got to be stopped.

“Two weeks ago the new director of the World Bank was here. She made a statement and … was actually spot on that the fundamentals in Zimbabwe do not justify the PMR.

“Basically, we have a surplus of foreign exchange. I have been involved in Zimbabwe’s economy for 60 years and I cannot remember a time when we had surplus foreign exchange domestically, either in the Rhodesian days or Zimbabwean days,” Cross said.

“Today we have six months import cover in the banks and yet we have these runaway exchange rates.

“The main reason for domestic inflation today is not the war in Ukraine and it is not printing money at the Reserve Bank. It’s the PMR rate.

“Why does the PMR run and today it’s at 325. I told the minister of Finance (Mthuli Ncube) that we are going to be at 400 in a matter of weeks and he said ‘look we have to attend to this’.

“He agreed to meet when he comes back from Washington to address this,” Cross further told 3Ktv, a recently launched independent television station that is a sister operation of the Daily News.

“We cannot see any return to stability of the domestic market, and the big problem with this is the devaluation of people’s incomes,” he added.

The former member of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s (RBZ) monetary policy committee repeatedly emphasised that the scrapping of the US dollar and other currencies from the economy would deal decisively with the rampant forex black market.

This comes as Zimbabweans are reeling from rising prices of basic goods, mainly in response to the rampant parallel foreign currency market and the negative effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

A survey by Daily News crews in Harare and Bulawayo recently revealed that the prices of basic goods that include cooking oil, sugar, bread, eggs, milk, mealie-meal, flour, washing powder, bathing soap and rice have gone up markedly over the past few weeks.

As a result, many Zimbabweans who spoke to the newspaper — including labour, consumer watchdogs and business — pleaded with authorities to take urgent action to remedy the situation, especially with regards to the worrying decline of the Zim dollar against the greenback.

Last week, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said the government was alive to the economic pain of the working-class — adding that authorities were trying to fix the root causes of the problems, including inflation and currency volatility.

He said among the measures that authorities had introduced included containing fuel prices and availing more foreign currency to companies through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ). – Daily News